Lori Patton Davis to deliver iconic 2021 Brown Lecture in Education Research

Nationally recognized scholar in racial justice, equity, inclusion to give American Educational Research Association talk Oct 21


Lori Patton Davis, professor of higher education and student affairs and a nationally recognized scholar, educator and thought leader on racial justice, equity and inclusion in education, has been selected to deliver the iconic Annual Brown Lecture in Education Research during the 2021 conference of the American Educational Research Association (AERA).

Her lecture title, “Still Climbing the Hill: Intersectional Reflections on Brown and Beyond,” is inspired by the poem by Amanda Gorman, the National Youth Poet Laureate who read “The Hill We Climb” at the 2021 Presidential Inauguration.

The 18th  Annual Brown Lecture by Lori Patton Davis will be held virtually on Thursday, October 21, 6-7:30 p.m. ET.


Patton Davis, one of the most influential educators in the country and the first Black woman elected president of the Association for the Study of Higher Education, will challenge the dominant narrative about the 1954 Brown v. the Board of Education decision and introduce perspectives typically overlooked or erased in larger Brown discussions.

Her insights will inform the work of scholars, students and practitioners who want to challenge the traditional thought processes around Brown, its impact and how it is applied today, not just in K-12 schools, but in higher education as well.

Drawing on her professional philosophy that is rooted in equity-mindedness, collaboration and innovation, Patton Davis’ talk will bring context that benefits educators, policymakers and researchers in three ways:

  • Using Brown as a catalyst to take a deeper dive into historical context, Patton Davis will challenge dominant narratives about the decision. Her perspective positions us to better understand why Brown, while significant, isn’t an educational cure-all, so we can garner more knowledge, learn from mistakes and acknowledge Brown’s unfulfilled promises.
  • By making connections between past and present, Patton Davis will explain how understanding Brown can help us better frame today’s divided opinions about issues in education. She will use differences in opinion about how to respond to COVID-19 in educational settings to illustrate this concept.
  • Listeners will gain perspective to better understand the pushback against critical race theory, a slippery part of the hill that keeps us from reaching the top. Patton Davis will make connections to help us activate our talent, skill and knowledge to move us further up the hill.

Patton Davis also will make recommendations about how a critical race lens might guide us toward a more progressive realization of the promises of Brown. In particular, she will suggest how educational researchers, the majority of whom are situated in postsecondary settings, can engage in activism, modeled after the communities still fighting for racial and educational equity since Brown.

Patton Davis is a trailblazer in academia

As a two-time recipient of the Mildred E. Garcia Award for Exemplary Scholarship from the Association for the Study of Higher Education, as well as the first Black woman to chair the college’s Department of Educational Studies, Patton Davis maintains a critical research agenda that has deeply influenced the landscape of and knowledge base within higher education research.

Much of her scholarship centers around the lives and experiences of minoritized groups as they interact with visible and invisible policies, practices and processes.

Currently, Patton Davis, a native of East St. Louis, Illinois, is studying the experiences of Black children’s educational pathways under the Missouri Transfer Law. Funded in part by the Spencer Foundation, she explores how a seemingly innocuous education policy led to the near dismantling of a high school populated by racially, socially and economically disadvantaged students.

Patton Davis’ additional areas of research expertise

Black women and girls. Patton Davis’ scholarship and praxis is explicitly intersectional. Her research, with its focus on the experiences of Black women and girls in P-20+ educational and social contexts, particularly their collegiate trajectories, as well as their gendered-raced-sexual identities and experiences, is a galvanizing force and model for a generation of emerging and early career scholars committed to disrupting the scholarly neglect to which Black women and girls have been subjected.

Her collaborations in this work with three Black women scholars, also from East St. Louis, offer an alternative perspective to Jonathan Kozol’s Savage Inequalities. Their research appears in Teachers College Record, Urban Education and in the forthcoming book from SUNY Press titled Re-authoring Savage Inequalities: Counter-Narratives of Community Cultural Wealth in Urban Education.

She is also:

Campus culture centers. Patton Davis is particularly recognized as the foremost researcher and scholar in the area of campus culture centers, having written the first dissertation that underscored the significant contributions of Black culture centers and their emergence during the Black Student Movement of the 1960s and 1970s.

In addition to peer-reviewed publications, she edited Campus Culture Centers in Higher Education: Perspectives on Identity, Theory, and Practice, the first and only volume to highlight various types of racial/ethnic culture centers in higher education, their continued relevance and implications for their existence in relation to student retention and success.

Critical Race Theory. An accomplished and influential scholar, Patton Davis has an established reputation as a leading expert on Critical Race Theory (CRT) applied to postsecondary contexts. Her Urban Education article titled “Disrupting Postsecondary Prose: Toward a Critical Race Theory of Higher Education” cogently theorized CRT in higher education.

She also addresses CRT as co-author of the most widely adopted text in higher education and student affairs graduate programs across the country, Student Development in College, published by Wiley.

Editorial editorships, service, awards and honors

 Patton Davis’ robust body of work has been published in multiple respected journals. She has served on nine editorial boards for journals in the field of education and is former associate editor of the International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education.

She was twice appointed as AERA Division J Equity and inclusion Officer and was a 2021 AERA Conference Program Chair. The American College Personnel Association (ACPA) members elected her as the inaugural Director of Equity and Inclusion on the association’s national governing board.

She has received many national awards for her scholarly contributions, including ACPA recognizing her with its Senior Scholar, Diamond Honoree and Contribution to Knowledge awards.

The National Association of Student Personnel Administrators recognized her with the George D. Kuh Outstanding Contribution to Research Award and the Robert H. Shaffer Award for Excellence as a Graduate Faculty Member.

Patton Davis’ research has been funded by the Spencer Foundation, Lumina Foundation, American Psychological Foundation and an array of other entities.

Patton Davis was recently recognized in the 2021 Edu-Scholar Rankings as among the top 200 most influential educators in the United States.

She is a frequently sought expert on a wide range of education topics. Dozens of media outlets have quoted her and featured her research, including:

  • The Chronicle of Higher Education
  • Inside Higher Ed
  • Huffington Post
  • National Public Radio
  • Diverse Issues in Higher Education
  • USA Today

She has also advised university presidents and other senior administrators, philanthropic foundation executives, culture center directors and educators in urban K-12 schools.

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